Thursday, July 15, 2004


I have an image in my mind that I think works fairly well as an analogy/allegory of racial history in this country:
Imagine two men. One of them is on the ground, while the other beats him and stamps on him. One day, for whatever reason, the assailant quits the attack, and, I suppose, he goes about his business, whatever it is that assailants do at leisure. Meanwhile, the other man is, naturally, bleeding and wretching on the ground where he's left. A few days hence, perhaps the next day, the two men meet again. In the interval, the victim has gotten some medical attention. The cuts are closed with stitches and covered with some gauze, and probably he's not actually bleeding anymore; he has plaster casts, maybe, and crutches; his eyes are still swollen mostly closed. Obviously, he's not about to run any races or lay down a nasty dunk. When they meet, the victim is basically cowed and has little ability to articulate anything meaningful. The other man doesn't particularly notice the injuries, though he doesn't resume the attack or anything. He says to the other, "Glad see you're back on top things."

This is the picture I have in my mind when I hear arguments about affirmative action, etc. For example, discussions on the radio between four middle-aged educated white (sounding) people and a twenty-year-old black/latino/etc college student, talking about how the new GPA requirements will "impact" minority enrollment.

Now we have this little spat between Kerry and Bush about making speeches before the NAACP. In summary, Kerry made a speech before an NAACP gathering, and in that speech, he made sure to point out that Bush has not spoken to this (I think, venerable and prestigious are appropriate) group at any time during his presidency. When questioned about this neglect, the administration claimed that the NAACP is a partisan organization and not interested in constructive dialog (I'm paraphrasing). Anyone with ears probably will agree with me in thinking these words don't sit very comfortably in Bush-administration mouths. That aside, I have a theory (actually, it's more like a belief, without the fallback of hypothesis or "conjecture") about this neglect. Along with Martin Luther King Jr. and others, the NAACP is one of the images of the Civil rights movement. Afterall, these are the folks who finally a got shoulder up against the cork that was sealing up the bottle. When MLK came on the scene, Thurgood Marshall felt that the time for his kind of work was coming to end. Nowadays, there are all sorts of nasty words that can't be said in polite or public conversation, including such horrifying epithets as "coloreds" and "negroes." Instead, we have a whole dictionary and rhetoric of euphemisms; instead, we say, "a certain element in society..."--that sort of thing, meaning the guy in the bandages. Folks like Trent Lott, the rules at Bob Jones University are, I think, a good indication of how shallow this is really buried. Why "ignore" the NAACP? In an administration in which every screenshot is storyboarded meticulously? This is a nod to those "elements in society" that have not made their peace with MLK and unsegregated restrooms. Are there a lot of those people? Enough to get a nod from a sitting president.